Collaboration. This has been the theme of the week for me. On Monday, I had a lovely and insightful conversation with a co-worker about collaboration. Today, I was asked by a director in an audition if I liked to collaborate or work alone. In general I think collaboration is a wonderful thing. I’m sure there are situations where it isn’t relevant or feasible but this discussion focuses primarily on artistic collaboration.

Both when my co-worker asked me how I feel about artistic collaboration and when that director asked me if I preferred solo or collaborative work I was, honestly, taken aback. My first and foremost thought on the matter is: If you prefer solo work, what on earth are you doing in the theatre? And I don’t mean that in a mean way but seriously. In what universe can a single person pull together a performance of any kind? Even a one person show has to have a crew of some kind. And it occurred to me that this mentality is exactly why you run into people in this business who are difficult to work with. People who think they can do it all on their own are the divas and the primadonnas that nobody wants to work with because they think they’d be better off on their own. Well, let me tell you, I’d love to see someone try to write, design, tech, run and perform a show all on their own. And by love, I mean I’d love to see it as an example of exactly why you cannot have a solo mentality in this business.

Back to my conversation with my co-worker. She’s a writer and visual artist and she told me she has difficulty collaborating because she likes to say what she wants to say and asked me if I run into this in theatre. While I understand where she’s coming from, I think that collaboration is an extremely exciting way to say those things rather than a hinderance. The very nature of theatre begs you to seek out others who have the same thing to say as you do. Out of necessity, you must find like-minded people and learn to adapt so that all of you, ultimately, get to share your voice. Theatre is such a collective medium in that it is designed to be shared with a group of people all at once. Unlike writing that is really meant to be one author sharing their thoughts with a single reader at a time. There is nothing wrong with writing, I enjoy hearing a single person’s thoughts or stories but, to me, collaborative work is so much more exciting. You get to hear a host of different perspectives on the same issue and even if you don’t agree, you get to understand why and sometimes even change your own perspectives and opinions on things. If you run into a problem or a roadblock, you have multiple minds trying to figure out how to get around it instead of being stuck in your own head.

And in the end, having a shared experience is such a special and precious thing, why wouldn’t you seek that out?

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